Kuala Lumpur - Tamarind Hill (Thai-Burmese cuisine) at Jalan Sultan Ismail
Tamarind Hill is one of those places which placed more emphasis on luxe decor than its service or food. Perched on a hillock once occupied by Scalini's at Jalan Sultan Ismail, its strategic location is a pretty much aimed at the business traveller segment of the market. Right across the street is Jalan Pinang, with its crowded girlie bars and raucuous night-life - it's amazing that a Muslim city like KL actually has its own "Patpong".
Anyhoo, back to Tamarind Hill, a sister-restaurant to Tamarind Springs (a more secluded option, located in the wooded areas of Ampang, 20 minutes' drive out of Jalan Sultan Ismail). The more accessible Tamarind Hill has more or less the same standard of cooking - it billed itself as Thai-Burmese: not really surprising in KL where the Burmese (Myanmarese) make up most of the kitchen staff, frm street-side stalls to coffeeshops and restaurants of *any* ilk.
- Tamarind Hill platter, consisting of 4 types of Thai-inspired hor d'oeuvres: noodle-wrapped prawns, Thai fish-cake (tod man pla), chicken sate skewers, and orange segments topped with an indecipherable tamarind-flavoured, caramelised minced chicken(?). The prawns weren't very fresh, the fishcake was okay, the chicken sates tender but did not have any peanut dip, whilst the last item ("mahoi") was the tastiest.
- The dried beef which came with a spicy dip tasted pretty much like biltong. It was good, but not memorable.
- The deep-fried crispy soft-shell crab served on a bed of julienned apples, tomatoes and peanuts were much better - coming across as greaseless, and with a slightly-sweet-sour dressing which was subtle and did not overwhelm the crabmeat.
- The vegetarian corn fritters, on the other hand, was greasier than we'd have liked, but sweet and tasty all the same. Pity the dish was pretty cold (left too long on kitchen counter?) and the fritters had lost much of the crispiness by the time they arrived at the table.
- Deep-fried tiger prawns with spicy chilli sauce was vile: the prawns had obviously been covered in batter and deep-fried before being stir-fried with the chilli sauce to coat them. The whole concoction came across as heavy and the flavours were not sharp and distinct as those you'd find in a good Thai restaurant. It was also served cold. Avoid!
- The roast duck dish which looked like it was sauteed with onions, scallions, black fungus was pretty vile, too. The duck-skin was slimy, the sauce was bland and lacked the spicy Thai or Burmese flavours to excite one's palate. AVOID!
- The cod-fish (the restaurant did not have the pomfret stated on the menu) with sweet basil sauce was another greasy, heavy disappointment. AVOID!! Also inexplicably served cold!
- Thai green curry with chicken was probably the only standout among the mains - a simply, straightforward curry which the kitchen shouldn't mess up. I liked the tender chicken strips, aubergines and pea eggplants.
Desserts were good: loved the "sangkaya" (pumpkin with custard) and the crisp-fried bananas served with vanilla ice-cream.
One point to note here: the service was amateurish and *very* erratic throughout the evening and oftentimes, *none* of the wait-staff were visible in the dining room - they seemed to prefer to group together and chat among themselves outside, rather than checking if the customers need anything in the dining room. Oftentimes, some of our party had finished their food completely whilst others were still waiting for theirs despite constant follow-up (by ourselves, looking for the wait-staff hiding somewhere). For such an expensive place (it's priced more than twice to three times the average one would pay in KL for this type of meal), it's really poor show.
19, Jalan Sultan Ismail
68000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2148 3200
Martha, Singaporean restaurants pay *much* closer attention to their service level compared to Malaysian restaurants where, more often than not, service is very, very amateurish, inefficient, and can be taxing on the customers' nerves.
Overall, Malaysian service levels are very poor by international standards, and finding uncleaned or soiled tables and dirty floors in supposedly "good" restaurants is quite a norm. People here normally do *not* pay close attention to the details and there seems to be a norm that anything done "up to 80%" is "good enough".
I won't be surprised if Tamarind Hill Singapore is a class above Tamarind Hill Kuala Lumpur. Do let me know your experience there if you do go.